Thursday, December 6, 2012

Strange Brews

While leafing through the latest magnum opus by Prof. Phil Baran and his Super Group (Nature, 2012, 492, p.95), I came across this playful graphic* near the bottom of page 4:

Source: Nature 2012 | Baran group, Scripps
Yes, that's right: Phil's "toolkit" chemistry for site-selective radical additions works in buffer, cell lysate, or oolong tea. Sounds like we need a few more entries in B.R.S.M.'s "Conditions You'll Never Try" post!

Mmm, delicious solvent...
Perhaps a story I tossed out in his Comments section bears repeating: I once attended a conference where Profs. Paul Wender and Kazunori Koide spoke on alternate days. Wender went first, and mentioned in passing that one of his group's specialties (I think it was Rh [2+2+2], but correct me if you know otherwise...) could be performed in beer. Not to be outdone, Dr. Koide called his group the following morning, and arranged a hasty trial of his transition-metal detecting fluorescent sensor in Starbucks coffee.

Escalation followed. By the end of the conference, everyone had rung up their labs to try ever more exotic solvents, ranging from wine to paint thinner, then finally to whiskey. As explained in Adam Rogers' fantastic 2011 piece "Mystery of the Canadian Whiskey Fungus," this aged, distilled melange of organic compounds should foil up all but the most robust reactions; I'm fairly certain the reaction - another metal-catalyzed cyclization - still performed around 40%. Not too shabby.

*Just noticed that Bethany Halford beat me to it, at least as far as the tea!


  1. I can see things like the above leading to things like this...

    1. You know, I vaguely recall someone poisoning the iced tea in a restaurant with NaN3 sometime last year. Luckily, no one died in either case.